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How the Miami Heat neutered the Indiana Pacers

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The Heat beat the Pacers easily in Game 6, but we think it was over well before that. Here's how the Heat neutered the Pacers from having a chance.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Miami cut the drama out of the Eastern Conference Finals when the crushed the Indiana Pacers in Game 6 of the series, sending them to the Finals. It was a long series, but it seemed as though the Heat figured the Pacers out early in the series. Here's some observations about what I saw.

1.  The real Dwyane Wade showed up
We were hoping it was only a matter of time before Dwyane Wade showed up. And it was Game 5 against the Brooklyn Nets that got him going. Wade scored 28 and carried that momentum into the series with the Pacers. He tailed off towards the end, but he helped set the pace for the Heat in this series and he showed up big. One of the Pacers' biggest hopes and chances to win was to have 1 of the Big Three off their game. For the first 3 games, it was Chris Bosh, yet Miami held a 2-1 lead. Wade attacking and controlling helped Miami get the split and then hold home court.

2.  Chris Bosh figured it out
Bosh scored 9 points in each of the first three games this series, and then he caught fire. Game 4 saw him get off to a terrific start and he scored 25, 20, 25 to finish the series. He stretched the Pacers out even more, and he was just on his game, more than he usually is. Once Bosh figured it out, it was pretty much game over for the Pacers, as he was their last hope to containing Miami. If it weren't for an outlier Game 5 from LeBron in foul trouble, the series probably would have ended there in Indiana. Bosh is key to everything the Heat do, and he propelled them to victory.

3.  Full court pressure changed the pace
Miami didn't keep it a secret that the Pacers don't have a true ball handler. George Hill and C.J. Watson are not true points guards, and so the Heat wanted to exploit that, it was a strategic change for Spoelstra and it worked. It didn't work every time down the floor, but what it did was take the Pacers out of their sets and out of their rhythm. Trapping at mid court, and forcing the bigs to make decisions was key to Miami speeding up the Pacers and taking them out of their game for stretches of the game. The Pacers use the last four seconds of the shot clock more than any team in the NBA, and the Heat worked to make them play to a different identity.

The Heat also ramped up their defense to the level we expected their could. They got their hands on so many passes, jumped the pick and pop with deflections, and didn't allow the Pacers to get what they wanted offensively.

4.  They only gave up one thing (David West)
Miami's strategy was clear, David West was the one they would leave open. They weren't going to let Paul George beat them (although his shooting display in the 4th Quarter of Game 5 did that), and they weren't going to allow Hibbert to dominate. Lance would make his own mistakes and George Hill isn't good enough to beat them. The Heat essentially shut the door on everyone else and allowed David West to be the hero. And although he was consistent and effective, he wasn't enough to beat the Heat. Miami routinely doubled Hibbert when he turned baseline, trapped off screens, and allowed Stephenson to shoot rather than drive. It left West to get open shots and sometimes alone on the block, but the strategy worked.

5.  Continual floor stretching created problems
The insertion of Rashard Lewis into the starting lineup coincided with the absence of Chris Andersen for Games 4 and 5. But Lewis was ready, and although he didn't hit until Games 5 and 6, where he was really good, he essentially made the Pacers work even harder. Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen don't space the floor, but with Lewis in there, Miami has potent weapons spreading the floor. It's was Lewis' +/- was so blossomed even without him scoring for a few games, he stretched the floor. It's the same effect that Shane Battier has had at the PF position when he is hitting, Battier made Miami dangerous when he was on in the past, now Lewis is doing that. Rashard also played pretty good defense along the way.

When it was all said and done, the Heat won the series 4-2, and likely should have won 4-1. It's taken the Pacers out of the conversation of a rival as this is the third straight year the Pacers have been extinguished by the Heat. You got the feeling after Game 2 that Miami just figured the Pacers out and there wasn't much they could do (besides nearly foul out LeBron James). The Heat have stripped them of confidence. David West said after the game, "We can't beat them."

I'm sure the Pacers won't go away, as they will still be a foe for the Heat, especially since we don't know what the future holds for Miami's roster. But for now, consider the Pacers neutered by LeBron and company.